A year before her death in 1959, Ninah Cummer—an art collector, garden enthusiast, and civic leader—donated her riverfront home and art collection to the community, imploring her fellow citizens to help support the foundation of an art museum. In less than 10 years, the board of trustees transformed the abode into the verdant Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, adding to Ninah's original gift of 60 pieces until the collection included nearly 1,000 works of art.
Today, the permanent collection holds pieces that span more than four millennia, from 2,100 B.C. to the 21st century. An ancient Egyptian stone tablet intrigues viewers with cryptic hieroglyphs and stylized portraits while, nearby, Peter Paul Rubens' The Lamentation of Christ epitomizes the colorful, sweepingly histrionic style of the Baroque painters. American treasures include Gilbert Stuart's iconic portrait of George Washington—one of over 100 he painted in an attempt to perfect the likeness of the first president and design a killer mask for the White House Halloween party.
After getting their fill of indoor beauty, guests can head to the open air and vibrant scenery of the museum's gardens. Begun more than a century ago, the gardens crisscross with winding paths that take guests under the canopies of majestic oaks and alongside the Italian garden's shimmering reflecting pools.
When the Jacksonville Zoo first opened in 1914, it had only one attraction––a red fawn. Today, nearly a century later, it’s home to more than 2,000 rare and exotic animals and 1,000 plant species, and welcomes an ever-changing lineup of visiting exhibits. Guests stroll along the boardwalk in a large, open environment called the Plains of East Africa, where cheetah, antelope, and warthogs roam in environs that simulate their native habitat. The African loop also includes Elephant Plaza, where elephants stir up tidal waves playing marco polo in a 275,000-gallon pool. Visitors can also pet and feed stingrays, stand eye-to-eye with a giraffe, and head to the award-winning Range of the Jaguar exhibit to roam a replica of an abandoned Mayan temple. During summer months, kids get wet at the Play Park and Splash Ground, where they can climb into a treehouse or peer through an underwater window to see penguins swimming overhead.
After guests explore the wildlife, rest and relaxation await within botanical gardens such as the Asian Bamboo garden, where patrons cross a traditional moon gate to see a tranquil waterfall, komodo dragons, and an interactive bamboo mist forest. The zoo also features a carousel, train rides, and several restaurants where humans can tap into their own wild instincts by hunting their natural prey—the sandwich.
Culled from samples found in her own backyard, Madge Wallace exhibited her first small naturalist collection in her New Riverside School classroom in 1910. Her museum relocated to a Victorian mansion in the decades to follow before settling on its current location on the south bank of the St. Johns River. Known as Museum of Science & History since 1988, the facility currently hosts changing and core exhibits that feature towering marine skeletons and interactive stations strewn through a mock digestive tract where visitors learn about bodily functions. At Currents of Time, history buffs can amass nuggets of local knowledge as they trace Jacksonville's history to more than 12,000 years ago. Elsewhere, The Bryan-Gooding Planetarium's 35,000-watt sound system enthralls guests at Cosmic Concert laser shows every Friday night, and monthly MOSH After Dark sessions educate adults with hands-on workshops and scientific lectures.
The Sun-Ray Cinema at 5 Points, formerly known as Riverside Theater and 5 Points Theatre, is a historic single-screen movie theater in the Riverside section of Jacksonville. Originally opened in 1927, the large room was specifically designed to accommodate live theater as well, in the event that talking movies didn’t take off as expected. Over the years, the theater was opened and closed numerous times as a performance center, a night club and general cinema house, until the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission approved it as a Jacksonville landmark and remodeled the space several years ago. Colorful murals give vibrancy to the updated space, while comfortable seating and long wooden tables in front of each row act as wonderfully modern touches, allowing each guest to set down food and drinks easily. P, pulled pork sandwiches and a host of not-seen-everywhere snacks make for a unique experience inside.
Lunar Mini Golf's two 18-hole indoor courses whisks putters away to a black-lit labyrinth sculpted through a phosphorescent dreamscape of vibrant murals and neon obstacles. Tiny neon walls frame the pitch-black corridors of each hole, which gives the impression that patrons are rolling orbs across the rayless expanse of the cosmos or through their neighbors' radioactive crawlspaces. Clubbers clad in white will shine like gleaming apparitions as they read tricky breaks and keep the yips at bay, and Lunar Mini Golf offers glowing necklaces for clients to wear to capitalize on the visually mesmerizing lure of the black lights. Catering to large groups, Lunar Mini Golf also features a complimentary party zone available upon request for birthdays, corporate gatherings, and ceremonies unveiling new neon eyebrow tattoos.
Owned and operated by The Potter’s House International Ministries, King Pins Bowling center improves hand-eye coordination with air hockey, billiards, and more than 20 automatic scoring lanes. Between frames, patrons can grab a cheesy pizza at the snack bar or catch a game on either of the alley’s two jumbo screen TVs.